Forgotten Friday looks at a team as opposed to an individual this week as we look back on the demise of Middlesbrough F.C.
Middlesbrough are a football club that have gone from Premier League to Championship over the last number of years. For a number of years, they were a very good Premier League club, with some high profile players and managers. Since their latest relegation from the top tier they have failed to regain promotion and have subsequently dropped out of the limelight.
In the history of English football, Boro traditionally are a small club. They are based up north and have always been behind Sunderland and Newcastle in terms of following and reputation. Nowadays while both Sunderland and Newcastle ply their trade in the Premier League, Middlesbrough receive very little coverage.
So let’s reflect on their good days. They were promoted to the Premier League for the 1995-1996 season under the management of Bryan Robson. They have a very respectable campaign and comfortably finished in mid-table. They made a marquee singing in Brazilian midfielder Juninho which was a sign of the exciting times that were ahead at the Riverside.
That summer saw a real turnaround in the ambition of the club as they invested heavily in their squad. They added some international players in Italian Fabrizio Ravanelli and Brazilian midfielder Emerson. Their opening game of the season was a thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool, where Ravanelli scored a hat-trick and it looked to be a sign of things to come.
It went onto be an eventful season full of ups and downs. Boro made it to both the League Cup and F.A. Cup finals. They lost both to Leicester City and Chelsea respectively. These were both great achievements but very surprisingly Middlesbrough were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of that season.
The following season they were promoted straight back to the Premier League as Paul Merson led the side to second place and automatic promotion to the old First Division. From here they remained a Premier League club for the next decade. It was in the 2008-2009 season that Boro got relegated but the intervening years were exciting times for the fans.
There were many big names and many enjoyable days as they established themselves as a very competitive Premier League club. During the days of the almost untouchable ‘Top 4’, Middlesbrough were seen by many as the ‘best of the rest’ along with the likes of Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.
Players like Alen Boksic, Hamilton Ricard, Paul Ince, the return of Juninho, Christian Karembeu, Gareth Southgate, Geremi, Szilard Nemeth, George Boateng, Gaizka Mendieta, Boudewijn Zenden, Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink, Mark Viduka and Yakubu were a number of examples of the high quality players that they brought in under various managers.
These players were complimented by the likes of Stewart Downing and David Wheater who came through the youth system. They became a club with ambition and had some reasonable achievements during this time. They won one trophy in claiming the League Cup in 2003-2004 defeating Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the final.
Possibly their most remarkable achievement was reaching the UEFA Cup final in the 2005-2006 season. They went on a remarkable run and while they lost the final it was a remarkable achievement to even get there. They lost 4-0 to an excellent Sevilla side who were on a par with Barcelona and Real Madrid at the time in La Liga. Overall Middlesbrough were a club doing quite well.
Unfortunately the story began to unwind as Middlesbrough regressed and the ambition certainly seemed to lessen. Faith was put in the young players coming through and all of a sudden Boro became an inexperienced team as well as a selling club. Their league position to started to fall lower and lower as they consistently flirted with relegation.
The day arrived in 2008-2009 when they went down to the Championship after eleven consecutive Premier League seasons. The squad that went down was almost unrecognisable to the sides that were established in the Premier League only a short few years previously. They went to the Championship with Gareth Southgate in charge, but he only lasted a month or so in the job and now they almost appear to be in freefall.
Tony Mowbray took over from Southgate and the club remained a consistent Championship club. Mowbray left the club in late 2013 after three years in charge and now Spaniard Aitor Karanka is in charge while the club remain in the second tier of English football.
They are now a relatively steady mid-table Championship club which is a long way away from a top third Premier League club that they were about ten years ago or less. Seventh is the highest that they have finished since their relegation and they are yet to contest the play-offs to try to make a return to the Premier League.
It has been a sharp decline for Boro, for their fans and for the club as a whole. People would forget that they were a good Premier League team until recent times. The fact that they have failed to even contest promotion will have caused many people to forget what a good club they were a few years back.
Unless things turn around dramatically, a lot of people will fail to remember the success they had and they could soon be completely forgotten.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena
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